5 tips for finding the right awards program for your campaign

Winning an award for your work feels great and can impress potential clients—but how can you minimize the financial risks involved?

Finding the right awards programs

As your company or client’s public relations or marketing expert, raising their profile is your job.

Among the usual deliverables of garnering earned media, drafting and placing bylined articles and managing social media, submitting and winning industry and trade awards remains one of the most visible ways to help your client to raise their profile as an emerging leader.

Here are some tips for finding the right awards program for your client:

1. Select awards strategically. Not every award is worth you or your client’s time, but never disregard smaller or pay-to-play awards. The smaller awards can be leveraged for achieving more prestigious awards in the future, especially if you’re submitting to new industry verticals. Similarly, pay-to-play awards may require a financial investment, but can pay off tremendously if used correctly.

Your marketing budget will ultimately determine which awards you can target, because the most prestigious awards are often the most expensive. The submission cost is a barrier to entry to limit submissions for only the most serious of award applicants.

Research the past award winners. Does your client seem like a fit among last year’s winners? If not, don’t worry. It’s possible the judges simply haven’t reviewed a nominee like your client and might consider selecting someone completely unexpected. Don’t be afraid to punch above your client’s weight.

2. Focus on the why. With your client’s blessing, it’s time to brainstorm reasons for why your client deserves to win the award. The first answer that comes to mind is often the most honest, but you need to justify it. Is your boss the hardest working professional you’ve ever met? That’s your top line message, but you need to explain how their hard work is worthy of the award.

Don’t be discouraged if your client doesn’t donate enough money or isn’t on as many boards as another CEO. Not everyone can donate $1 million per year, and no judge would dock points for nominees being wealthier than others. What is most important is why your boss supports what they support.

Tell the story of why your boss originally decided to get involved. More often than not, people don’t get involved in nonprofits or causes for vanity purposes; there was likely a deeply personal reason they committed, and that’s the story judges want to highlight in their winners.

3. Prioritize brevity. Be specific and always follow the submission guide’s instructions. Answer the questions: no more, no less. Judges want brevity in submission answers.

Mike Allen, a co-founder of Axios and former chief political reporter for Politico, has changed how daily news is digested by delivering the “clearest, smartest, most efficient” experience for readers. Like Axios’ simple yet effective reporting style, your award submission answers should only include what is absolutely necessary to justify your answers.

Put yourself in a judge’s shoes. In reviewing hundreds of similar submissions, they’re most likely to pick nominees who submit answers that are straightforward and genuine.

4. Prepare to amplify a potential win. If you’re submitting to awards you believe your client has a great chance of winning, you need to be prepared to leverage a win with marketing. Go far and wide with an announcement plan using all communications channels including social media, internal and external email newsletters, content distribution partners, and—if the award is truly newsworthy—pitch it to local media.

5. Repeat. After receiving final approval from your client on your submission, you now have pre-approved messaging you can apply to the next awards. Award submissions are time-consuming, so use what you can from previous submissions to make the process more efficient for you.

Bonus Tip: Solicit feedback from the judges or the communications team about your submission. Show a genuine interest in how they think you could have improved your submission materials. Many won’t respond, but at least you’re giving them the chance to do so. If they do respond, they’ll likely offer constructive feedback that will help you in future submissions.

Even if your client is not selected as a winner, you’re still working to expand their profile. Set a reminder to re-submit to the award next year. Review this year’s winner profiles and cross-reference why they won and your client didn’t and mark those reasons down as goals to achieve for your client to achieve for next year.

Tyler Bryant is an account manager at Decibel Blue.

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